Thursday, 24 November 2011

Builder's bum

I had the joy of working from home the other day. No kids, no noise, no meetings. Just a computer, a list and a cracking view out of the window. To make matters even better, I had a night out to look forward to. Fellow guffers, whisky, cheese, chat and future plans being the reason to escape.

Talking of escape and finishing my to do list early, I found myself rolling through the crap interface of sky+ to find a Discovery tribute to Steve Jobs. A considerable number of people  have said many things over the past few weeks and the Discovery programme didn't bring anything new to the table. This has began a chain of thought - who are the real luminaries of cycling still pushing boundaries, being 'foolish' and true to themselves? OK, there are a multitude of frame builders out in Oregan (is there any other industry) all pedalling the same stuff, same material, same message and sourcing the same customer. Are you looking for an esoteric solution. Jeff Jones must be one of the few really pushing the boundaries of what is, let's face it a conservative market. 

I can easily become all gooey eyed at the latest creation coming out of bespoke bike builders stables. Is it really moving things on, or just some nice, 'as you are Sir' tailoring? Please don't take me the wrong way. I'm delighted to see the artisan builder making a comeback. The love of the lug is very strong, feel the flux and the piping be with you. However, I have the feeling that I already know what I'm going to see at the next NAHBS show. 

There's a catalogue from the excellent New York MoMA 2010 Bespoke: Handbuilt Bicycle exhibition on my shelf. This admission may surprise fellow guffer Dr Dawson. You see, he takes great pleasure in winding me up. I have an uncanny need to keep my bikes clean. Well, the favourite from that show was the unwashed Richard Sachs Cyclocross bike. A bicycle of reserved beauty and displaying classic geometry lines to their best. The fact that he makes his own lugs, fork crowns and dropouts adds to the appeal.

Recently, a UK mag had a review of 'bikes for the bold' it included a section that was a 'parked beside a wall' test. How many people would stop and ask questions about those weird and wacky bikes? What is going on!? I'm sure they weren't being serious….I'm possibly reading too much into it, but it did suggest that only those that read the mag are in the know? I'm sure a few folk would just walk past that Sachs bike if it was parked against a wall. Talking of parking, I once parked a Maclaren buggy beside a Ferrari Testosterone. The owner was pretty annoyed, the passers by laughed as he pulled on his Scuderia jacket.

Back to the luminaries; Mike Burrows is a name that comes to mind. Another is Graeme Obree. Builders and riders who would be willing to put there own name on something and either let someone else break records or do it themselves. Where would we be now if the UCI had decided not to be fools and stop progress in its tracks? 

Unfortunately, Mr Obree doesn't make it into the otherwise excellent Cylcepedia - A Tour of Iconic Bicycle Designs. There are a number of highlights in that book, it's well worth a look. One of my favourites is on page 92 (possibly his age), an Alex Moulton Speed Six. 

I'm lucky enough to have a 60's Moulton DeLuxe. She's in a state of disrepair and the plan is for those small wheels to roll again and novel suspension to soak up the bumps. The added bonus is the size of the tartan bag on the back rack, just perfect for a cask strength from the local distillery.

Stay upright

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